(Post by KAREN VELEZ)
A friend of mine had a baby not too long ago. That baby is about four months old now. My friend shares stories and photos and her excitement at being a new mama. She is so full of innocence and love. Who could blame her? Her baby is beautiful.
A little over a week ago, she shared a short video of the baby interacting with her. She would say something. The baby would move his arms and legs like he was dancing, look at her, smile, and “goo-goo” and babble back when she stopped talking. The cadence of their banter is unmistakable. That baby babbles with meaning. With purpose. I can see that words are just around the corner.
She blows raspberries on his tummy. He laughs. He coos.
So that is what I was missing.
Yes, six years later, in a short video clip, I saw, for the first time in my life, how another kind of baby interacts with his mama. Ouch.
I didn’t see it with my own son.
I was blindsided.
That baby is adorable, and watching that baby and his mama cut me deeply. Obviously, that was not her intent. I loved seeing the video. I had joy in the moment, knowing the sheer innocence and loving bond it represented. And then I cried, silently, alone.
At the time of my own son’s birth, I had never cared for an infant. I never babysat a child. I never had a sibling. No nephews, nieces, friends with children. Nada. I did not know that the child in my arms 24/7 was different. I did not know we were missing milestones like I saw last week.
The interaction without words.
The mutual expressions of love.
I saw instant “reactions” during an exchange filled with love.
And I felt happy and sad, excitement and regret. Regret that I was blind to see my own child was different earlier. But what would have changed? Would I have pursued a year or two of ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis)? How would I have found ABA then (for my autistic child)? Would I have found the people who have given my son so much? They were not even located in our region then. Would I have searched as deeply? Would I have written about it? I don’t know. Would things be better, different, worse?
Regret and conjecture serves no purpose other than to beget sadness and doubt.
I pulled out an old baby album. I cannot find any videos of him. At all. Is that strange?
I looked through photographs. In the hundreds of pictures I took of my baby, most were of him sleeping. Maybe because he looked so peaceful and I felt those moments were so rare. In all those pictures, so few were with his eyes open. In most of those, he looks dazed, surprised or confused. There were only five I found where he was smiling.
Three were with his daddy. Two were alone. None were with me.
I don’t think I am bitter. Sad is more like it. But since that serves no purpose, I have to let go.
The beauty of those moments, the smiles there are captured for eternity. There is a deep love between the boys in my life.
And for me, I feel the deepest, most fulfilling love of my life in my love for my son. I feel enormous joy from his beautiful smile outside to the innocence of the inner core of his being. I love all of him as he is, now and forever.
He says, “I love you, mommy,” every day.
And I relish every syllable. Because each one is a gift. I understand that.
Regret is dead weight. Gratitude lifts me up and brings me into the light. In that light, I know how much I have to be grateful for. I am lucky to be mother to the little boy I call my own.
Karen Velez, Sacramento, California
Karen is a lawyer and mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. She works part time and spends the rest driving here and there and everywhere for her son’s various therapies. Instead of trying cases, she now plays Pac-man and watches SpongeBob. She wears old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after her son. “Yeah, it’s different,” she says, “but I wouldn’t change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.” Visit her blog Solodialogue or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.Tweet